tv Acting Asst. Attorney General Chad Readler CSPAN October 12, 2017 9:28am-10:07am EDT
rib him about it and he'd say, and gingrich would say, he would say, dick, would you go before an audience and give a speech to 100,000 people? of course you would. that's what you're doing with c-span, special orders every afternoon. so c-span quickly becomes a cult political leader and is getting 700 letters a week from people around the country. to this back bench, you know, junior member from georgia who's a member of a minority party, already achieving a national following. >> watch after words, on c-span2's book tv. the assistant attorney general handling litigation on sanctuary cities and served as an attorney during the 2016 election and gave this address on constitution day.
>> good afternoon, everyone. good afternoon and welcome to the ashland center at ashland university. as you all know we're here to celebrate constitution day. this sunday, september 17th marks the 230th anniversary of the date when the delegates in philadelphia concluded the work of the constitutional convention, they sent the constitution to the people beginning one of the greatest ten-month debates in american history over ratification of the constitution. ashbrook provided copies to the final product to tens of thousands of teachers and students across the country and you all have a copy of this at your feet today. to celebrate constitution day, we are honored to have with us chad, appointed as acting assistant attorney general for the civil division at the united states department of justice on january 30th, 2017. in this role, he overseas the
largest litigation team at the department of justice with over 1100 lawyers who manage over 50,000 different matters each year. the civil division represents the united states in a wide array of civil litigation, including challenges to presidential executive orders, congressional statutes, federal agency actions, and commercial disputes, including contract disputes, banking, insurance, and international trade matters, and enforcement of immigration laws. now, i felt being someone from ohio who has known our speaker for quite a few years, i try not to hold it against him, that his undergraduate and graduate degrees are from university of michigan and he still roots for them over the buckeyes. but soon after that law degree, he clerked for judge norris for the u.s. court of appeals for
the 6th circuit before joining the department of justice. he was a partner at junes day, having successfully argued before the supreme court of the united states, the ohio supreme court and lower appellate courts and he's also known for his commitment to pro bono clients. as americans, we live in the greatest experiment in self-government that the world has ever seen. it is reassuring to me to know that in this constitutional self-government that we have men like chad who have devoted their lives to defending and protecting our constitution. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming assistant attorney general. [applaus [applause] >> well, thank you. good afternoon. i had in my notes to thank roger for that warm introduction. he are the sta--
he started to veer off course, but thank you. thank you for the celebration of the constitution in advance of constitution day. of all the many events and individuals we honor in our country, it's difficult to think of a more impactful event than the constitution and more impactful than its signers. i thank the ashbrook center for reminding us of the constitutional significance on constitutional celebration. and reminders we all need from time to time, and some moron that others. some of you may have seen in advance of this day, but a broader one, according to the story one in three americans could not name a single right protected by the first amendment and roughly the same number could not name a single branch of government. now, i know from roger anyone
associated with ashbrook could ace any constitutional quiz, but we have them educating some of our peers out there. speaking of roger, let me say you're a terrific leader at ashbrook. for the last five years we had the pleasure of serving together and looked at a different constitution, and ways to modernize the constitution and language easier to follow or more tied to modern day practices, and as you can imagine, this took us into a whole host of areas of really deep legal discussion about constitutional meaning and interpretation. it's no surprise to me that roger is always at the intellectual fore of those discussions, but it's not until service together i learned that roger was actually not a lawyer. this is remarkable to me that he didn't have a formal legal education and from roger's perspective he had to spend time with a lot of lawyers and
maybe that situation, either way, it's wonderful to serve on the commission and serve with roger and i know you have an extremely capable leader here to carry you through the coming years. it's great to be back in ohio. as roger mentioned, for the last 19 years i practiced law in columbus until i took a job in january with the department of justice in washington. so, i don't get back to ohio and the midwest as often as i'd like, but what better time and way to come back than to celebrate constitution day with all of you. i was doing some research on the topic of constitution day before i came and i was actually quite please today discover that ohio was one of the first states to celebrate constitution day. now, my research that i first uncovered suggested that ohio, first celebrated constitution day in 1952 and that some individuals from ohio then actually took the movement nationally and ultimately went
to congress and president eisenhower signing into law constitution week. i did a little more week, a lot of other states lay claim to the same title as being the inspiration behind constitution day so i'm not sure i'll be able to sort out that debate today, but i'm sure that ohioans are happy to share that honor just as the framers in the 13 original states drafted and ratified our constitution. while we can debate the origins of constitution day we can certainly all agree that the constitution itself means far more to our nation than that single holiday could ever reflect. as history is revealed, governments and nations throughout time have come and gone, often crumbling under the weight of pressures imposed by imperfect systems of governing and representation. but here we are in america, in 2017, a nation of free people in a free society, more than
240 years after declaring is necessary for the united states to dissolve the bonds that joined it to england and institute a new government, one among all else that would protect liberty. how has our nation endured so long when so many others have not? more than anything else, i'll submit to you, that we have our constitution to thank for our continued longevity, prosperity, and freedom. now, it may sound glib at first to describe the constitution in this way. how, you might ask, can such an honor be bestowed on this. how can this signed by these men, from lexington and concord, to the civil war and two world wars. to my mind it's protection of liberty, justice and democracy
which together pave the way for so many of our future successes. the constitution's enactment was far from certainty. spurred by quarrels of the states and simmered by unrest of people, delegates to the constitutional convention arrived in philadelphia in may of that year with conflicting instructions from their respective states and an unclear relationship with the congress of existing articles of confederation. the delegates there saw their way to frame the document that would serve as a stable foundation for enduring nations, the contest of ideas, the struggle of interests and the clash of personalities shape many of the clauses of our constitutions. for instance, governor morris of pennsylvania, his name often confused with the name of governor which he never held, sparked conflicts. the most frequent speaker, best
known for abolitionist views, he sparked one fervent debate after another, including one over his proposal, the language authorized in the congress to print paper money be stripped from the draft constitution. a new york representative responded that it'd be better to have no constitution than to adopt morris' proposal. in the end, morris carried the day, believing he had successfully barred the government from issuing paper money. but it was efemoral as your wallet will attest. and congress authorized the circulating of our national currency removing the power to print money is not the same as forbidding the printing of paper money. operate other hand, benjamin franklin showed the quieter leadership. he rarely spoke his views,
choosing to have james wilson read his remarks for him. when franklin did speak, it was often to deliver a story, tell a joke or propose a position that would be embraced by none of the other delegates present, such as still born suggestion that public officials not be paid. but franklin was not without influence, in fact, one georgia delegate went so far as to describe franklin as quote, able to make the very heavens obey. franklin himself believes many of the specifics were less important than there be a constitution at all so his approach became to defuse tensions and encourage goodwill across the delegations and this positioned him to shape the great compromise into a plan the delegates could swallow. indeed, in the end, much of the constitution was a result of compromise and thoughtful negotiation. now, we're all familiar with some of the fairly well-known
compromises in the constitution, including the three-fifths to shape the southern states, but lesser-kno lesser-known changes of compromise on our nation, the preamble, we the people was originally written to state. we the people of new hampshire, massachusetts, connecticut and so on. and that constitution amendment process would seemingly be required every time we had a new state so we dodged a bullet there, i think. the incompatibility clause that senators were barred from other public office for a year after leaving the senate. that would have precluded prominent appointments, most notably, attorney general sessions to serve as attorney general of the united states. and the earlier draft prevailed would have been referred to not as the president, but instead
his excellency. think about that for a minute. and then there are edits rejected. my favorite, a delegate proposed limiting the size of our standing army to 5,000 soldiers. george washington, who rarely spoke, rose to state his opposition. he says, i should be wholey in favor of this proposal. it needs only to be expanded to also require that no enemies shall ever invade with more than 5,000 troops. [laughter] >> so the adoption of the constitution did not end in philadelphia, ratification was no less dramatic. a story of proponents and opponents seeking to secure support for their positions. with the opponents carrying the day, but often by slim margin and individuals voting occurred in the 13 states. in contrast to the convention, singularly remarkable assembliage of historic personalities. ratification involved the
people in taverns and stables, by leaflets and newspapers, de debating philosophies and practicalities, discussing government's purposes and limits. against that historic backdrop and with the passage of over two centuries, one might think that any and all constitutional questions would have been answered at this point in our nation's history. how, the framers might ask, could the nation still be confronted with divides of constitutional dimension over 200 years after the constitution's enactment with so much went into its crafting and with a nation having centuries to sort out any lingering or unanswered interpretive questions. suffice it to say, myriad constitutional questions do remain. today, those issues are debated through social media rather than leaflet and on cable television rather the town's square. no matter the forum, we still
discuss the same constitution and the same fundamental questions over the bounds of constitution constitutional limitations. and the department of justice and in particular the civil division where i currently serve, plays a unique role in resolving the constitutional questions because the civil division represents the united states, along with its agencies and departments and its officers and employees, including in each of the branches of government in the most significant civil litigation matters in our country. these cases involve national policies, jurisdictional issues and other issues of such breadth it's important to assure our government speaks with a single voice on the law at issue. nowhere is this more important than in the constitutional settings. in many of our most sensitive matters the civil division is charged with asserting how the constitution answers these questions over the structure and authority of our federal government. and again, despite our nation's
230-year constitutional history there remain today no shortage of questions to be dually confronted or confronted anew about the meaning of the constitution and the limits it imposes. in fact, many of our nations most contentious political issues debated in legislatures, in the media or water cooler. i'm not sure we have water coolers anymore, maybe coffee shops, have constitutional dimension. oftentimes the courts are left to decide the constitutional matters, leaving the nonpolitical branches of government at the core of joined political debate. so in the spirit of this constitution day celebration i'd like to highlight some of the issues that the civil division is addressing today. some of the issues may be familiar to you, others may not, but all of which must be answered by the words enshrined in 1787, and as roger
mentioned, i'm not able to really discuss the cases at lengths, but i would like to highlight a few for you to give you the sense of the important constitutional questions that are debated in the courts and being addressed by the department of justice. one of those is the ongoing litigation defending executive order 13780, which has the title, protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the united states. and that executive order, about which much has been said, at bottom turns on a constitutional interpretation. in the order the president invoked his power as commander-in-chief and as dell delegated to him by congress. the 90 days, congress previously designated heightened terrorism related risks. now, individuals, and states have challenged that as violation of the first amendment establishment clause which prohibits the government from making any law respecting
the establishment of religion, that issue, which has been advocated on behalf of the government in defense the order was done by the civil division and in conjunction with the solicitor general's office and in that case is scheduled to be heard next month before the supreme court. now, another matter of public discussion is the debate over sanctuary cities, that term, sanctuary cities, is used in a host of contexts, and here again, the debate in many ways really has a constitutional question at its core. this time, emanating from the 10th amendment. the 10th amendment reads, as powers not delegated to the united states by the constitution or prohibited by the states are reserved for states respectively or to the people. some localities assert any
effort by the united states to require cooperation from those localities on immigration related matters, search the powers, quote, to the states. even where it's tied to an optional federal funding program. they're litigating these questions as well. underlining broader debates over immigration and law enforcement. now, beyond these two well-publicized areas of litigation, i suspect you are to be somewhat familiar with. the civil division is tackling other unique questions in the public eye. one case involves the interaction between the first amendment, the priority of the framers and the ratifying states, and twitter. something surely foreign to those who gathered by horse and buggy in philadelphia in 1787. individuals who have been blocked, as that term is used in the twitter context, from accessing tweets from real donald trump's twitter account contended a lawsuit that such
blocking constitutes a restriction on their ability to public forum, twitter, and violation of the amendment. and the president's business activities, here to foreinfrequently invoked provision of article one of the constitution and in relative part prohibits federal office holdings from accepting, quote, any present, title or office from any king, prince or foreign state. and the plaintiff in these cases make the unique claim that a visit by a foreign official to an establishment owned by the president constitutes the president's acceptance of a foreign emolument in the clause. the article 2 powers under the appointments clause reads in part the president shall appoint officers of the united
states. this provision has been read to allow the president to appoint such officers, for example, members of his cabinet, and to remove those officers as well for any reason. the congress, however, has created what are called independent agencies that exercise executive power, but are deemed independent because the president can only remove the heads of those agencies for cause-- or for cause as opposed to for any reason, and not at will. historically those agencies have been run by committees, but the congress in creating the consumer financial protection bureau run by ohioen rich cordray, and removalable only for cause ap the question there, that sort of arrangement infringes on the article 2 powers of the president. now, i cite these cases know the to spark debate over their outcome, but instead to provide examples of the important constitutional questions that
continue to surface even today. the endearing legacy of the constitution, both that individuals are free to raise claims invoking the constitution and the questions in turn will be resolved in an orderly manner, as envisioned by the constitution's carefully crafted separation of powers between the branches. now, if you're patiently waiting throughout this talk for the answers to these questions, i can only tell you that the department of justice will vigorously advocate the division in each, but i can offer some final guidance how one should go about answering these constitutional questions. and that is to discern the constitution's original meaning. look to the constitution's text, structure, and history, to determine what the words of the constitution reasonably have been understood to mean at the time of ratification and apply that meaning to today's constitutional questions. interpreting the constitution, according to its original meaning, protects the rule of
law, giving the written constitution a fixed meaning that binds everyone including judges. and adherence to the constitution's original meaning on the tireless work of its drafters and provides consistent answers to the most difficult of constitutional questions. the framers would expect nothing less. a closing thought, from my office window at the department of justice, i look out at the national archives building. the archives rotunda is on display, the constitution. on two occasions i've gone to view the constitution, each time looking at the irony, department of justice lawyers spend days on end applying and interpreting the words of this. the paper itself is showing its age, but its relevance has never been greater. thank you very much. [applaus
[applause] >> thank you, chad, that was great, appreciate it. let's start just with the constitution, more broadly, before we get to any modern issues. you and i spent a long time looking at the ohio constitution and the ohio constitution, amid most state constitutions have a different character to them than the federal constitution. they spend to be much, much longer, they go into far more detail, then amended far more frequently than the federal constitution. what do you think of the system that the founders set up that really made it very difficult
to amend the constitution, that prevented it from becoming like state constitutions has that added to its durability over the years? >> that's a wonderful question. i think the beauty in one sense of our federal constitution is its limited nature. 4,000 words, fairly simply written, and left to the people and the courts to interpret over time. the process is extremely difficult, three quarters of the state, not something that's done frequently and not done lightly. our state constitutions serve a different role. the federal constitution is an authorization of power to the federal government. our state constitution on the other hand, essentially limits on the otherwise plenary power that the state has over citizens. so in that sense they do sort of serve different purposes, but we find in our state constitution and in other state constitutions that the process is much easier than the amendment process for the
federal constitution and we allow amendments to our constitution. we can debate whether those amendments were good or bad. some you like and probably some you may not like, but it does sort of raise the question should all of these policy issues, whether it's something related to health care or something really to voting or something else, some of these issues should they be put in our constitution or just be enacted by the legislature as most laws are, which then gives more flexibility if people find difficulties in executing the laws? when something is put in the constitution, it can't be changed by legislature. it can being struck down by the courts or amend in the future, but cannot be easily changed. that's one of the beauties of it. and that's what we should look at in that, as opposed to policies in the legislature where the ordinary legislative process can take place and laws can be amended as needed.
>> so, i can't let pass the opportunity, because we have so many high school students and college students here, just to ask you a couple of questions about your career path. we all like to make lawyer jokes, of course. >> i hadn't made one-- >> i showed restraint. and can you talk about just looking back over your career now, which obviously has been very successfully and private practice and then now moving to the department of justice. what advice would you give to one of these students that may be thinking about possibly pursuing the law. >> law school is tough, so, that's a tough three years, but the amount of learning and growing you do personally is remarkable and it sets you up for a great career. it may not be in the law.
there are people with law degrees that do a whole host of things. >> and the it's a huge benefit. business, politician. i wouldn't go to law school lightly, it's expense stiff and three years of your life, but the skills you acquire is applicable in a whole host of settings so you'll see a number of people who have been quite successful or quite happy what they do who are lawyers who are not practicing law. in fact, i think unfortunately, some of the happiest lawyers i know are the ones who don't practice law, but i will say in defense of us who do practice law, it's also a really wonderful opportunity, depending on where you're practicing, you're representing at a minimum a client, who has a very important interest, and if you're lucky enough, maybe representing a state or a nation or some other entity and that's a real terrific honor, but responsibility.
that's something that the law allows you when you go into a court and represent a client on their behalf, and it's just a real honor, and also, a burden in a sense that you have obligations according to your client that you have to carry out. i've been lucky to both have some time in private practice, now, working with the government. the law does allow you to get involved in other areas, whether it be-- people make a lot of lawyers around, you know, on board and other things, and it will open a lot of things that way and most lawyers would say one of the things they probably appreciated most about their careers, the many options in terms of what you want to do next. >> how about your move from ohio to d.c. in this new role? what has surprised you now that you're working in the department of justice? >> yeah, that's a great question. i mean, i will say i knew
washington would be political, and it may be more political than i expected, but that is sort of evening itself out a little bit. one of the great things about being in the department of justice, it gives you a window into the entire federal government because our clients, whether it's the president, the congress, or essentially any federal agency, we represent all of them in their significant legal matters so on one case you're working with the department of state on a matter that has international implications, and then you're working with hhs on a matter regarding health care or the affordable care act. we have a lot of immigration matters, lots of financial and fraud related matters so we get-- or i get a window into really, the whole range of operations of the federal government. so that's been certainly a wonderful way to get introduced to washington. i'm really enjoying it. i think i will probably come back to ohio at some point, but
it's been a wonderful experience so far. >> a few questions from the audience. what is the biggest constitutional issue or controversy that america faces today? >> wow. i thought these would be softballs. i highlighted some of the cases that are getting a lot of attention and so those are sort of-- they're sort of in the news quite a bit, but i think that the first amendment with all of its contours is something that will always give us very interesting issues to discuss and debate. whether they're issues relate today certain kinds of speech, political speech, commercial speech, other kind of speech, what kind of speech we allow and where we allow it, we have a rich tradition of allowing speech in all contexts. and the first amendment on religion, which the government
>> doing more to help people better understand the importance and relevance of the constitution. >> sure. distributing free consultations is a good start. there are an number of websites you can go to these days that have really fulsome discussion are different aspects of the constitution. it's not hard to find information. i suppose it's trying to strike an interest in those issues and that's why in my talk i tried to mention some hot button political issues and we don't really do a core political issue at the department of justice but behind those are constitutional questions. i think it's important for the public to keep in mind that the constitution does drive a lot of debates. we always hope congress knows the constitution because we defend our laws and is easy to do when they are constitutional. we always appreciate their attention to the constitution. but beyond that i would encourage you to maybe find a clause or two that interest you, maybe do some reading on that and perhaps that would inspire
you to be interested in other parts of the constitution. >> i'm not sure if this will apply to a case, so waive this off if it does. do you think we are doing a good job of applying the constitution to modern situations involving technology? >> that's a great question because i think it is important to understand the original meaning of the constitution when we interpret modern-day questions. technology has moved beyond anything probably the framers would have imagined. this comes up in a lot of context. certainly in intellectual property law where people are trying to protect certain rights and technology has changed that quite a bit, with social media issues, transportation and if we have automated cars all those different legal issue that's going to create and probably some constitutional issues. it's the case technology is raising a whole new wave of
issues, but the important thing i would say is all these questions can be answered in a consistent manner by referring back to the original terms of the constitution, what do admit to protect and how much we apply them today. often when the two courts to make those difficult determinations. legislatures that did take the constitution mind when religiously but it was see -- at something was a lot more of. cases of raids those issues i can't talk about today but stay tuned. >> our make this the last one. if the founding framers would have written the constitution with the knowledge of this era do you think they would've changed anything? >> that's a great question. i guess the answer, i don't know, but i think that the framers had in mind their words would carry forward as if they're just writing for their generation, for the next generation, but writing for many future generations.
i think they understood the words they were riding in philadelphia and being ratified by the states would carry forward for many years. i hope they think we have been faithful to the words they wrote and their intent. i think we have by and large, but that sort of the beauty of the constitution in that when you sort of try to get a a consistent meaning that can be applied to any modern-day question we have, and we have a lot of those going on right now. i'll have to go back to work soon to start working on some of those. i really appreciate you having here today and appreciate you coming out to honor the constitution. >> thanks, chad. thank you. [applause] >> we are live as energy secretary rick perry will go before a house subcommittee
turkey will update members about his department budget and also talk about policy priorities in the pricing of electric power. this is set to start in just a moment. live coverage here on c-span2. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]